Since this article will be published on the same morning as Wizards of the
Coast’s next Banned & Restricted update, I’m not going to spend too
much time talking about why I believe that some exciting news might be on
Needless to say, the January/February B&R Announcement tends to be the
one time of year where WotC is willing to meddle with Modern even if the
format doesn’t seem all that broken. In fact, if you want to find a winter
where WotC didn’t either ban or unban a card in Modern, you have to travel
all the way back to 2012. If WotC doesn’t change something today, they’ll
make some sort of move next month. One way or another, change is coming to
Modern – and soon.
Instead, I’d like to spend this week talking about what you should do if
(or when) various bans or unbans do occur. After all, most people react to
unban announcements by sprinting over to their nearest store (or
StarCityGames.com), checking for available stock, finding nothing,
shrugging, and moving on. This is a mistake. There’s always money to be
made by staying slightly ahead of the hype – if you’re savvy, at least.
right away. Don’t even think about it – just do it. You’ll thank me
This is part of why I’m writing this article in advance of the
announcement, by the way. If I were to wait until we knew what WotC decided
to do, it would be too late to act. This isn’t 2009 when it took days for a
card to spike. Now, it happens in hours.
At the risk of having egg all over my face if WotC decided not to
ban or unban anything today, I suggest reading this article anyway. For
starters, I’ve got some hot-off-the-presses Ravnica Allegiance
Standard analysis toward the end that you definitely don’t want to miss.
Beyond that, though, a lack of unbans today just means that we have more
time to prep before the next big hype cycle. The calls for WotC to ban
Krark-Clan Ironworks or unban Stoneforge Mystic aren’t going away anytime
soon, no matter what happened today. So, if WotC decided to go with “No
Changes,” that’s totally fine. More time for you to fill your portfolio
But before we get to my secondary spike picks, though, there’s a rule of
thumb that we need to talk about first:
If A Card You Own is Unbanned, Sell it Immediately
The following cards have been unbanned in Modern over the past six years:
- February 2018: Jace, the Mind Sculptor & Bloodbraid Elf
- April 2016: Ancestral Vision & Sword of the Meek
- January 2015: Golgari Grave-Troll
- February 2014: Bitterblossom & Wild Nacatl
Thanks to historical pricing data, we can take a look at each of these
cards and find out how well you would have done had you sold your copies
the day after they were unbanned.
Jace, The Mind Sculptor peaked at $140 the week after it was unbanned. It
has yet to climb that high in the months since, though it hasn’t even been
a full year yet, and it was reprinted shortly after that spike as well.
Regardless, you would have done well to sell your Jaces into the immediate
Bloodbraid Elf also peaked at $9 right after it was unbanned. It has never
been that high before or since.
Sword of the Meek was another bust. It peaked at $25 right after it was
unbanned before quickly bottoming out back at $8. It had another brief
spike in January of 2017, but that was short-lived and the card didn’t even
hit the $20 mark the second time around.
Ancestral Vision is an exception to this trend. It jumped to $44 right
after being unbanned, but it remained high for almost an entire year after
that. It peaked at $65 in May of 2017, almost a full year after it was
Golgari Grave-Troll is a super interesting case. The card went from $1 to
$8 when it was first unbanned before spending the next two years slowly
sliding back into obscurity. Then it finally found a home in Modern,
spiking as high as $14 before being banned again.
Wild Nacatl’s chart actually looks pretty similar. The one-drop jumped from
bulk to $2.50 upon being unbanned, spent the next several years bottoming
out again, and then it spiked to $3 upon finding new life in March of 2016.
Then it fell out of favor again, and its price has been slowly eroding ever
With Bitterblossom, we’re back to busts. The card was actually selling for
$100(!) immediately following its unbanning, but it was back down to $40
again by the end of 2014. Bitterblossom has yet to break $50 in the months
and years since then.
Seven cards is an admittedly small sample size, but the results still speak
for themselves. Of the seven cards that have been unbanned in Modern, four
of them have never been more expensive than they were the day
after their unbanning. Two more spent several years dropping in price
(allowing you to buy back in, if you wanted) before eventually finding new
life. Only one card – Ancestral Vision – would have been worth purchasing
on the day of its unban, and even that call assumes that you sold your
copies within a reasonable time frame. Considering Ancestral Vision is
easily available for $9.99 right now, I’d have been ecstatic to ditch my
copies at $44 each despite the fact that they ended up at $65 for a hot
So there you go. If a card you own was unbanned today, sell it right away.
Don’t even think about it – just do it. You’ll thank me later.
If Stoneforge Mystic is Unbanned…
It’s pretty clear that Stoneforge Mystic is the most likely card to come
off the Modern banned list this time around. Stoneforge was preemptively
banned in a time when Caw-Blade was running rampant in Standard, and the
card quickly became one of the most important cards in Legacy. Not wanting
the powerful Kor Artificer to define Modern as well, WotC kept it on the
sidelines when they introduced their new format to the world.
I’m not going to speculate much about whether Stoneforge Mystic would
actually be good in Modern. Much like when Jace, the Mind Sculptor came off
the banned list, many smart people believe that Stoneforge Mystic would
warp the Modern format around itself while other very smart people believe
that it wouldn’t even be a blip on the radar. For our purposes today, that
doesn’t really matter. Even if Stoneforge Mystic doesn’t end up being a
Modern powerhouse, people are going to want to build around whatever new
piece of tech is available to them. Supplemental pieces for a Modern
Stoneforge deck are going to spike regardless.
What supplemental pieces, you ask? Well, let’s start by taking a look at
this Shaheen Soorani article
from back in June. Modern has changed quite a bit since June, but this is
still the most recent in-depth look at the deck that I’ve been able to
The obvious card to target after a Stoneforge Mystic unban is Batterskull.
You won’t be alone in going there, of course, but there’s still money to be
made if you’re quick on the trigger. Stoneforge Mystic itself has jumped
from $25 to $45 over the past couple of days, mostly thanks to a
since-debunked rumor that Stoneforge Mystic was unbanned on the MTGO
. Batterskull, on the other hand, hasn’t ticked up at all yet. The card
currently retails for $16, but $40 seems like a solid target if you’re able
to sell into the hype window.
Beyond that, Jace, the Mind Sculptor looks like solid spec target to me.
There aren’t any Jace decks in Modern’s top tier right now, so demand for
the powerful planeswalker has been soft as of late. But Jace has always had
an incredibly high floor as well as a massive ceiling. And since Jace is
going to be a key card in any sort of Stoneforge deck, I wouldn’t be
shocked to see that card end up $30-$40 higher than it is right now.
Serum Visions seems like a decent spec as well. The card has been slowly
rising since the middle of 2017, and the one-drop cantrip is exactly the
sort of card you want to run alongside Stoneforge Mystic. Serum Visions has
been as high as $15 in the past, and its readily available for under $4
right now. Reprints should keep it from hitting $15 again, but $8-$10 is
Lastly, Sword of Feast and Famine is the protection sword I’d target first
in the event of a Stoneforge unbanning. I’m not sure how much play it would
actually see in the current Modern metagame – probably not much – but you’d
better believe that every Stoneforge player would instantly want to own at
least one or two of these. Sword of Feast and Famine has been a casual
darling for years now, and it hasn’t had a proper reprint…well, ever.
Expect it to break $50 if Stoneforge Mystic is unbanned.
If Krark-Clan Ironworks is Banned…
I don’t think I need to explain why WotC might kick Ironworks out of the
format. All we need is this link to
the Top 8 of Grand Prix Oakland
as well as
this Emma Handy article
. Enough said.
In my experience, people aren’t nearly aggressive enough about
immediately selling cards right after a ban or reprint announcement. The
sunk cost fallacy comes into play here, where it hurts so much to sell a
card for 30% less than it was worth yesterday so you just kind of wait and
wait while the price keeps going down. Don’t make that mistake. If
Krark-Clan Ironworks is banned, sell your expensive Ironworks pieces ASAP.
The good news is that Ironworks is actually a fairly cheap deck as far as
Modern goes, and most of the key pieces have other popular homes. Mox Opal
is a crucial card in Affinity and Hardened Scales as well as a dozen other
lower-tier decks, so you can feel free to keep that one if you want.
Chromatic Star is a four-of in Mono-Green Tron, so you’re all good there.
Ironworks is the number-one Engineered Explosives and Grove the Burnwillows
deck, though, so I’d move on from those two cards ASAP. And Krark-Clan
Ironworks itself would probably end back at $4 or so. If you can get more
than that for it in the hours after a ban, you should.
If Green Sun’s Zenith is Unbanned…
On most “can we unban this card in Modern?” polls, Green Sun’s Zenith
finishes second to Stoneforge Mystic. I don’t see why WotC would bring this
powerful tutor back, but enough people think it’s possible that I’m willing
to entertain the possibility.
I can’t find a ton of high level speculation on post-unban Green Sun’s
Zenith decks, but
this edition of Fact or Fiction from back in May
has some interesting chatter on the issue. Dryad Arbor is obviously the
number-one target here, as the Land Creature – Forest Dryad would suddenly
begin showing up to confuse us in literally every deck running Zenith. It’s
possible to find these for less than $15 right now, but they’d blow well
past $30 in a post-unban world.
Beyond that, you must start looking at…well, literally every green Modern
staple. Tarmogoyf. Noble Hierarch. Primeval Titan. All these cards get
loads better in a world where you can play Green Sun’s Zenith, and their
prices would start to tick up fast.
And then there’s Devoted Druid. If you haven’t had the chance to read
this Ben Friedman article about [card name="Necrotic Ooze"]Necrotic Ooze’s[/card] vast Modern potential
from back in October
, I highly recommend it. While this deck hasn’t done much in the months
since then, Green Sun’s Zenith would instantly become the best possible
addition. Both Necrotic Ooze and Devoted Druid could see massive price
spikes, as could Chord of Calling. I’m guessing that Green Sun’s Zenith
would likely replace Eldritch Evolution in that brew, but if not, you might
see that one on its way up as well.
If Ancient Stirrings is Banned…
An Ancient Stirrings ban would be like lobbing a hand grenade at the Modern
market and running as fast as possible in the other direction. Not only
would this be a massive nerf to Ironworks, but it would also be a gigantic
blow to Amulet Titan, Mono-Green Tron, Hardened Scales, Lantern Control,
and Whir Prison. Yowza!
It’s hard to say what decks would improve in the wake of a ban this
massive. All the affected decks play out pretty differently, from aggro to
control to combo, and it’s too big a shift to parse in a vacuum. Instead,
let’s talk about the cards that you should be selling after such a massive
We’ve already covered Ironworks, and the deck’s eponymous card is a clear
sell in this situation as well. So are Grove of the Burnwillows and
Engineered Explosives, just like last time.
Unfortunately, a Stirrings ban would seemingly necessitate the sale of the
deck’s other key cards as well. Chromatic Star basically only sees play in
decks with Ancient Stirrings – see ya. And Mox Opal? Oh boy. With Ironworks
and Hardened Scales gone, that powerful mythic would almost certainly start
coming down in price.
The Mono-Green Tron list is longer and far more expensive. We’re looking at
long-time format staples like Karn Liberated, Ugin, the Spirit Dragon,
Wurmcoil Engine, Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger, Walking Ballista, and
Oblivion Stone. I’m certain that some form of Tron would survive this ban,
so you probably don’t have to panic-sell these cards, but you should expect
a dip in price regardless.
Ditto for Affinity. The Hardened Scales variant would probably have to pack
it in without Ancient Stirrings, which would cause cards like Hangarback
Walker, Arcbound Ravager, Inkmoth Nexus, and Horizon Canopy to lose some
value. This deck also runs Mox Opal and Walking Ballista, which would make
for a bit of a double whammy and moves them firmly into the “sell” camp for
I feel like Amulet Titan would find another way to operate since the deck
does run blue and could add additional cantrips, but we’d be looking at
some pretty significant losses here as well if I’m wrong about that. Azusa,
Lost but Seeking, Primeval Titan, Summoner’s Pact, Amulet of Vigor, Tolaria
West, and Gemstone Mine are all fairly expensive cards whose values are
propped in in large part because of this particular deck. This is also
another place where Engineered Explosives would take a major hit, making
that card a top sell in almost any ban scenario.
If Something Else is Unbanned…
I’m not going to get into all the other unban targets, because
cards like Blazing Shoal and Hypergenesis are never, never, never
leaving the banned list. So here are some quick thoughts on a few of the
See the Green Sun’s Zenith section and extrapolate from there. Devoted
Druid combo seems great with Birthing Pod, and the Druid itself would
skyrocket in price after an unban. It’s also worth noting that Pod decks
pretty much like this
the last time the card was legal, so that would be the starting point for
most brewers getting back into the Pod of things. Voice of Resurgence,
Birds of Paradise, and Kitchen Finks would be my early spec choices here,
though everything from Wall of Roots to Siege Rhino would see some
I’m not sure that a Chrome Mox unban would actually spawn any new
archetypes. Maybe it could fit into Dredge? I guess it’s worth considering
for any sort of non-artifact all-in combo deck, but the financial play
isn’t immediately obvious to me.
Back in the day, Dig Through Time saw play in Control, Twin Combo, and
Scapeshift. An unban would be a boon to control cards like Jace, the Mind
Sculptor, Snapcaster Mage, and Cryptic Command as well as TitanShift
staples like Primeval Titan, Scapeshift, and Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle.
Storm would be the biggest beneficiary here. Cards like Baral, Chief of
Compliance, Manamorphose, Pyretic Ritual, Remand, Spirebluff Canal, and
Gifts Ungiven would see major price increases if either of these cheap
cantrips were unbanned.
The obvious play is Grove of the Burnwillows, of course, but a Punishing
Fire unban would probably cause all Jund cards to see a major increase in
popularity. Tarmogoyf, Bloodbraid Elf, and Liliana of the Veil are all
solid targets. Heck, it might even be worth considering Naya Zoo cards like
Wild Nacatl, though the format has probably passed that deck by regardless.
We all remember this deck, right? Snapcaster Mage, Remand, Tasigur, the
Golden Fang, and Vendilion Clique would all become a lot more relevant
again with Splinter Twin back on the map, and Tarmogoyf could see a jump if
Temur Twin came back into favor instead of the Grixis variant.
I guess unbanning Umezawa’s Jitte would put an end to some of the
Stoneforge Mystic speculation? Probably not. Either way, this card is at
least a solid sideboard choice for decks that run creatures (and against
decks that run creatures). Affinity would at least consider it. Perhaps
Jund as well. I’m not sure there are any easy and immediate spec choices,
If Something Else is Banned…
Luckily, there hasn’t been too much chatter about Modern bannings beyond
Krark-Clan Ironworks and Ancient Stirrings. There are two potential targets
that would cause massive waves to the Modern market, though:
A Faithless Looting ban might not be as epochal as an Ancient Stirrings
ban, but it wouldn’t be all that far off. Izzet Phoenix is the most popular
deck in the format right now, and cards like Thing in the Ice, Arclight
Phoenix, and Manamorphose would see their prices tick down a bit without
Faithless Looting. Dredge would be hit even harder, causing cards like
Bloodghast and Life from the Loam to tumble off their current highs. Hollow
One would be in trouble as well, which would affect cards like Goblin Lore
and Grim Lavamancer. Mardu Pyromancer doesn’t see as much play at the
moment, but Bedlam Reveler, Kolaghan’s Command, and Collective Brutality
might be hurt as well.
This is my favorite under-the-radar ban choice, as it would explain why Mox
Opal was so obviously omitted from Ultimate Masters. At the very
least, I must wonder if it was under consideration for a ban back when they
were putting together that set.
Obviously you should sell Mox Opal right away if it’s banned. Yes, even if
the price drops by 60 or 70 percent. The card doesn’t seem much play in
Legacy, Vintage, or Commander. “It’s a Mox” is worth about $15-$20. Beyond
that, you’d have to wait for future Modern unban hype to cash in.
A Mox Opal ban would actually hit a lot of the same decks that an Ancient
Stirrings ban would hit. Ironworks, Affinity (and Hardened Scales), Whir
Prison, and Lantern Control. Basically, all the Ancient Stirrings decks
except for Amulet Titan and Mono-Green Tron. If Mox Opal is banned, ditch
your Ironworks and Affinity staples ASAP. Neither deck will survive the
loss of that card.
Regardless of what happened this morning, like this article shows what a
precarious position some of Modern’s most expensive decks are in right now
when it comes to future bannings. So many of the format’s top brews rely on
some combination of Ancient Stirrings, Faithless Looting, and Mox
Opal–three cards that are going to remain vulnerable to a banning going
forward. If you aren’t okay with the possibility of this happening, you
probably should look beyond decks like Affinity and Mono-Green Tron, to say
nothing of Ironworks.
On the other side of things, a lot of the unban talk seems like it might
directly benefit decks like Jeskai Control, Jund, and all the green-based
combo strategies. Even if none of these cards are unbanned today, it’s not
like we won’t be talking about Stoneforge Mystic, Green Sun’s Zenith, and
Punishing Fire going forward. While it’s irresponsible to predict the ebbs
and flows of the Modern metagame too far down the line, it still feels like
these decks are solid long-term bets.
: Week Zero
Speaking of acting fast – that’s our theme of the week, apparently – it’s
time to take our first real look at the new Standard format.
I’ll be back next week with a complete breakdown of the decks that end up
, which will be the first true competitive test of Ravnica Allegiance. In the meantime, however, we’ve already got
some early returns from the Ravnica Allegiance early access event
as well as the set’s first few days of availability on Arena and Magic
For starters, let’s take a look at what Ravnica Allegiance cards
have gone up in price since I finished
my set review last week
- Judith, the Scourge Diva – up $3 from $3 to $6
- Growth-Chamber Guardian – Up $2 from $4 to $6
- Smothering Tithe – Up $2 from $2 to $4
- Incubation Druid – up $1 from $4 to $5
- Hero of Precinct One – Up $1 from $2 to $3
- Warrant // Warden – Up $0.50 from $1 to $1.50
Awesome. I don’t want to spend too much time tooting my own horn here, but
I feel really good about my Ravnica Allegiance set review so far.
Here’s hoping you grabbed your copies of Judith back when they were just
$1.50 and I told you that it was one of the best cards in the set.
Speaking of Judith, she was one of the key breakout cards during the
streamers’ early access event. Sam Black’s early builds of Rakdos creature
decks tend to make good use of The Scourge Diva, and Judith was all over
the place on stream last Wednesday. Since aggro decks tend to be at their
best early in a format, and Rakdos already looks good, I won’t be surprised
if Judith ends up being the breakout card of SCG Indianapolis next weekend.
Speaking of gainers that looked good on stream, Brad Nelson wrote about his
positive experience with Hero of Precinct One during that event. Much like
Young Pyromancer, Hero of Precinct One is one of those cards that can take
over a game as long as you’re already playing enough enablers that are good
on their own. Well, the Mardu Aggro deck that Nelson played in that event
runs twenty-five multicolored spells in addition to the Hero.
- 4 Benalish Marshal
- 4 Hunted Witness
- 2 Tajic, Legion's Edge
- 4 Imperious Oligarch
- 3 Judith, the Scourge Diva
- 4 Fireblade Artist
- 4 Hero of Precinct One
- 4 Footlight Fiend
There are some admittedly sketchy calls in that particular build, but Mardu
Aggro looks like it’s going to be a thing, and if so, expect Hero of
Precinct One to end up closer to $6 or $7 than $3.
In that article, Brad Nelson also talks about being impressed with Hydroid
Krasis during the early access event. Indeed, Simic, Bant, Sultai, and
Temur decks are already starting to show up – and they all look incredibly
sweet. My biggest issue with Hydroid Krasis in my set review was the fact
that its financial ceiling was limited by its color combination. Would
there really be more than one great deck that could run it? I’m a little
more bullish on that possibility now, and while it’s still not a must-buy
at $15, it’s quickly becoming one of my favorite mythics in the set.
I’m also starting to come around on Skarrgan Hellkite. While the card
hasn’t moved in price yet, it looked surprisingly great during the early
access event, and I was perhaps too quick to dismiss it as a bad
Glorybringer. I mean, it still sort-of is, but Glorybringer is gone and the
metagame seems like it has room for Skarrgan Hellkite in addition to the
fleet of Phoenixes that we’ve already got.
Nexus of Fate isn’t in Ravnica Allegiance, but it also seems clear
to me that Bant Nexus finally has enough Standard-legal support cards to
make a comeback. This deck seems better on Arena, since you can just play
best-of-one and dodge any sort of sideboard hate, but enough people are
going to want to play this in paper that I suspect we’ll see some pretty
significant price spikes for this deck’s key cards. Nexus of Fate is almost
sold out again at $30, which means that there isn’t a ton of upside left
here, but $40-$50 certainly isn’t out of the realm of possibility.
Lastly, let’s talk about Smothering Tithe. I predicted that the card would
drop down to bulk, but instead it jumped from $2 to $4. What gives?
Commander, that’s what. Smothering Tithe is absurdly good in that format,
and they all want their copies now. I still suspect that this one’s coming
down in price once enough Ravnica Allegiance is opened to satisfy
demand, but I can’t think of another recent non-mythic rare that has been
such an immediate financial hit with the casual community. If Smothering
Tithe isn’t reprinted, this could end up being a $10+ card in a couple of
This Week’s Trends
We’ve already talked about this week’s Standard trends, so let’s
move right on to Modern. Other than Stoneforge Mystic, the biggest
Modern gainer of the week was Wheel of Fate, which doubled in price
thanks to hype surrounding Electrodominance. I have no idea if this
deck is going to be any good (I suspect not), but I’m not surprised
that everybody wants to give it a shot. Restore Balance also surged
in price this week for the same reason, and that one’s even less
likely to end up finding a competitive home.
Also up a little this week: Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Hey, remember what I
said about Jace being good in a world where Stoneforge Mystic is unbanned?
Yeah, I’m pretty sure that some people decided to get their copies early.
Expect this price increase to settle back down if Stoneforge isn’t
unbanned, but expect Jace to jump by at least $20 if it is.
On the other side of the ledger, Mox Opal and Engineered Explosives
both dropped by a couple of bucks over the weekend. This also isn’t
surprising for anyone who read this article – people are getting
out Ironworks ahead of any potential ban. As with Jace, the future
of these cards depends entirely on what WotC decided to do this
Over in the world of casual Magic, both Thrumming Stone and Mana
Severance spiked this week thanks to Ravnica Allegiance‘s
very own Persistent Petitioners. Throw Thrumming Stone and Mana
Severance into a deck with a trillion copies of the Petitioners,
and decking your opponent becomes an almost trivial proposition.
Thrumming Stone was already super expensive, but Mana Severance was a bulk
rare that spiked to $20 before settling down around the $8-$10 mark. Unlike
most silly old card spikes, I actually see the merit here – the Persistent
Petitioners deck looks fun to build, and I have to imagine that enough
people are going to want to throw it together to keep Mana Severance in
moderate demand. Fish these out of your bulk and sell them into the hype,
but unlike most of these “my bulk rare is finally worth something!” spikes,
you can afford to be a little bit patient here.